During the warmer months, we ate in the room attached to the kitchen. It was flanked on two sides by double screens that went as high as the ceiling, and it was therefore called The Sun Room. Anyway, the sun room had two wall shelves full of my mother’s cookbooks. These cookbooks were rarely used, because my mom kept her recipe box — pretty much the only thing she used except on very rare occasions — next to the stove. I think it was on a night we had hamburgers for dinner that my sister got her brilliant idea of the new place to get rid of Undesirables. Don’t get me wrong — we liked my mom’s hamburgers, it’s just that they were so damn thick that it was often difficult to finish them.

Of course, there were the times that my mom tried to get creative on us and mushed chopped onions and green peppers into the ground beef. And in that case, we actually didn’t like the hamburgers. Whatever kind of hamburgers they were that night, at the earliest possible moment, my sister peeled off her bun, grabbed what was left of her patty, got on her chair, and stuffed it behind a book in on the top-most shelf. Sunday nights, we set up the card table and ate in the den so we could watch Sixty Minutes and Murder, She Wrote. To this day, the sound of the ticking stopwatch relentlessly conjures up visions of slightly tepid Campbell’s chicken noodle soup in brown earthenware mugs and B.L.T.s.

Of course, we didn’t always like the B.L.T.s. Did I mention that the den has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on three walls?

Christmastime and colder weather brought us back into the dining room, which didn’t have bookshelves, but it also brought elaborate faux holly centerpieces. Cooked spinach was then, and in fact still is, the bane of my existence. My mother knew this, yet still she served it to us. Luckily, my sister’s shrewd sense of color had noted that the putrid black-green of the wet spinach was exactly the same color as the centerpiece. What remains a mystery is what the hell happened to all that spinach after it went into the middle of the centerpiece. We never smelled it moldering. Years later, we even checked the interior, but found no sign of it. My mother never even knew about it until we confessed a bunch of youthful peccadilloes to her over a few glasses of wine (when we were too old to be grounded), so it’s not like she ever went and cleaned the centerpiece out.

To this day, my mother is still finding fossilized pieces of sandwiches, hamburgers, and other less identifiable remnants when she pulls out Martin Chuzzlewit or The Joy of Cooking.

The Picky Years: The Final Chapter 2 July,2012Stephanie Lucianovic

  • wendygee

    So, when did things turn around for you? I am wondering if picky eaters end up being foodies because they spend more than average time focusing on food — avoiding “bad” food and finding “good” food definitely takes alot more energy.I am also surprised you didn’t have bugs crawling through those cookbooks and centerpieces…

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    Well, I think the cold MN winters killed our indoors bugs mostly because we never really noticed any. Then again, we weren’t the ones cleaning the house.

    As you get older, your taste buds begin to die and you taste things less intensely.

    However, the real turnaround came when I met my “I’ll Eat Anything” boyfriend and realized I wanted to be introduced to more things. Then, I started craving things from my favorite restaurants and realized I couldn’t afford to eat out on an Editorial Assistant’s salary, so I wanted to recreate the dishes at home.

  • Anonymous

    Good luck.


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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